Canada: Lobbying: Important Amendments To The Lobbyists' Code Of Conduct

Last Updated: November 27 2015
Article by Gregory Kane, Peter V. Harder and Danylo Korbabicz

On December 1, 2015, a number of amendments to the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct (the Code) will come into force. The amendments have the potential to alter the ability of certain persons in the private sector to communicate with Federal Government officials known as public office holders (POHs) under the Lobbying Act (the Act).

Briefly, by way of background, the Act requires the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada (Commissioner) to develop a code that will apply when a lobby registration is required under the Act, whether or not a registration has actually been filed. The first version of the Code came into effect in 1997. At the time, while it was described as assuring the Canadian public that lobbying is done ethically, it was viewed as simply containing motherhood statements. For anyone communicating with a POH, the focus was on ensuring compliance with the Act. It was usually assumed that by taking measures to comply with the Act, there would be a corresponding compliance with the Code.

The current Commissioner began consultations in 2013, and by 2014, had published a revised Code, engaged in further consultations and referred the proposed changes to the appropriate House of Commons Committee. The result is that the Code is now based on four principles and ten rules. This will focus on the five revised rules that may impact lobbying conducted by corporations and organizations.

Rule 4: The most senior paid employee of a corporation or organization, who has the responsibility to file any lobby registration pursuant to the Act, now has a responsibility under the Code to ensure that employees who engage in lobbying activities on behalf of the organization or corporation are aware of their obligations under the Act and the Code.

Rule 6: This is a key provision that triggers the remaining rules. Lobbyists must not propose or undertake any action that would place a POH in a real or apparent conflict of interest. In a Guidance provided by the Commissioner, a conflict of interest is described as a situation where an individual's judgment is influenced, or might be influenced, from making decisions in an organization's or corporation's best interest due to a competing sense of obligation. Therefore, the Commissioner considers a conflict of interest exists when there is a perception that a POH's private interest may influence their performance when carrying out their official duties.

According to the Commissioner in her Guidance, the remaining Rules (7-10), will assist lobbyists in not taking actions that might place a POH in a conflict of interest.

Rule 7: This Rule and Rule 8 are collectively described as Rules respecting "preferential access." These Rules will, for the first time, prohibit a lobbyist from arranging a meeting with a POH or lobbying a POH when the lobbyist and the POH share a relationship that could reasonably be seen to create a sense of obligation. In her Guidance on these two Rules, the Commissioner has described the following types of relationships that risk creating the perception of preferential access:

  • Friends: This includes relationships where a lobbyist and a POH share a close bond of friendship, a feeling of affection, or a special kinship that extends beyond simple association. This would not include members of a lobbyist's broad social or business circle, where there is little emotional attachment.
  • Family: This means a lobbyist's immediate family, by blood or by marriage, and would include parents, siblings, children of the lobbyist, and those of their spouse/partner.
  • Business: This means a lobbyist with whom a POH is a business partner.

To repeat, these two Rules will prohibit in-house lobbyists in corporations or organizations from lobbying such POHs or from arranging meetings with them on behalf of their employer.

Rule 9: This Rule addresses political activities. Lobbyists will now be prohibited from lobbying someone who becomes a POH when they have undertaken political activities on behalf of that person, which could reasonably be seen to create a sense of obligation. If the person has become an elected official, then the lobbyist is also prohibited from lobbying staff in their office(s). In her Guidance on this Rule, the Commissioner has provided examples of political activities that do not carry risk of creating a sense of obligation and that would not place the POH in a conflict of interest. The Commissioner also provides examples of other types of activities which do pose a risk of a sense of obligation that could reasonably be seen to place a POH in a conflict of interest (using an objective test).

Examples that do not carry risk:


  • Placing a candidate's campaign sign on one's lawn;
  • Scrutineering for a candidate;
  • Speaking on a political panel when the lobbyist is expressing his or her own views as an individual;
  • Purchasing a ticket to and attending a fundraising event when that expenditure is within the limits established by the Canada Elections Act; or
  • Donating money to an election campaign within the limits established in the Canada Elections Act.

Examples of other types of political activities which do pose a risk are as follows:

  • Serving on the Executive or Board of Directors of a candidate's electoral district association;
  • Serving as a campaign chair or in another strategic role on a campaign team;
  • Serving in a named position on behalf of a candidate or electoral district association as set out in the Canada Elections Act;
  • Leading the preparation of a candidate for debates or providing strategic advice in the context of debate preparation; or
  • Organizing a fundraising event for an electoral district association or campaign.

In her Guidance, the Commissioner has added a third category where there is also a risk of creating a sense of obligation when the political activities have been conducted at the regional or national level.  Examples of these activities include:

  • Serving in a named position on behalf of a registered party as set out in the Canada Elections Act;
  • Serving in a paid campaign staff position or in another strategic role on a regional or national campaign team;
  • Acting as a designated party spokesperson;
  • Writing speeches for the party leader;
  • Working in a strategic capacity in a party's war room; or
  • Leading debate preparation for the party leader or providing strategic advice in the context of debate preparation.

The Commissioner, in her Guidance, has recognized that the sense of obligation towards a lobbyist created as a result of a lobbyist's political activities is likely to decrease over time. As a result, the Commissioner is of the view that a maximum of five years is a sufficient period of time to wait before lobbying the POH and/or his or her staff. The Commissioner may clarify the timeframe that is currently expressed as "a maximum of five years".

Rule 10: To avoid creating a sense of obligation, lobbyists will now be prohibited from providing or promising a gift, favour or other benefit to a POH whom they are lobbying or will lobby, which the POH is forbidden to accept. The Commissioner has defined a "gift" as including, "anything of value, given for free or at a reduced rate, when there is no obligation to repay" (annotated Lobbyists Code of Conduct). It is important to recognize that in addition to this rule, there are a number of other provisions that can be applicable to the acceptability of a gift for a POH. In this respect, note that the issue of "gifts" involves the intersection of provisions enforced by the Commissioner under the Act, and the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner and her administration of the Conflict of Interest Act. Examples provided by the Commissioner of documents that lobbyists could consult include:

  • Conflict of Interest Act (applies to Ministers, Ministers of State, Parliamentary Secretaries, their staff, and GIC appointees, including Deputy Ministers)
  • Conflict of Interest Code for Members (applies to Members of Parliament)
  • Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators
  • Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector
  • Organizational Values and Ethics Codes (all departments are required to develop a Values and Ethics Code. Some departments have posted their Codes on their websites.)

In her Guidance, the Commissioner has also acknowledged that gifts can be acceptable when they are given as an expression of courtesy, protocol or hospitality when a POH is carrying out job-related duties. The Commissioner has provided the following examples as including:

  • Refreshments/meals served at an event where the POH has a role to play. These circumstances could include ceremonial or presentational roles, or active participation by a POH as a representative of the government, or a federal department or agency.
  • Tickets to a public event such as a community event or charitable fundraiser given by event organizers to a Member of Parliament for events in their riding or region.
  • A gift given following an appearance, speech, or presentation as a token of thanks or appreciation.

Having given those examples, the Commissioner cautions that lobbyists should not give a POH—whom they are lobbying or will lobby—tickets to charitable or other events when the tickets are at a reduced cost or no cost. It will be acceptable to charge the POH the actual cost of the ticket (e.g., the cost the lobbyist paid for the ticket or, if the cost of the ticket price included a charitable receipt, the cost of the ticket minus the amounts of the charitable receipt).

Boards of directors

The lobby provisions described above apply to employees of corporations and organizations in their role as in-house lobbyists. The Commissioner has issued an Advisory Opinion expressing her official view on the application of the Act and Code to outside chairpersons and members of boards of directors. In that Advisory Opinion, the Commissioner stated that if the chairperson or member of the board is not an employee of the company or organization in an employee-employer relationship, and if they receive remuneration beyond reimbursement of expenses, then there is a requirement for registration as a consultant lobbyist if they engage in prescribed communications with POHs. Because the chairperson or members of the board of a corporation or organization are not employees, they are considered by the Commissioner to be a consultant lobbyist, which can invoke additional requirements with respect to the provisions in the Act and the Code.


The new provisions added to the Code will now potentially prohibit certain persons (described above) from engaging in lobbying activities and all persons from engaging in activities, such as giving a gift.  These prohibitions are not part of the Act, and their introduction through the Code, which is not a statutory instrument and which is amended unilaterally by the Commissioner, raises legal issues which may require resolution. That is a topic for another day.


As noted at the beginning of this alert, one of the reasons the Code has not been given prominent consideration in the past is that the original principles and rules were largely considered as motherhood statements that would usually be addressed in the context of completing a lobby registration.

The Code was also not taken as seriously as the Act because it is not a statutory instrument and does not carry any fines or possible jail terms. Nevertheless, the Commissioner, having first determined a person has engaged in lobbying under the Act, can open an investigation when she has further reason to believe one is necessary to ensure compliance with the Code. Her resulting report carries the same potential for adverse publicity as does her enforcement actions pursuant to the Act.

With that background, there is reason to believe that enforcement activity pursuant to the Act and Code will be every bit as vigilant—and potentially even more vigilant—than was the case in the past. Consider as well the statement by Prime Minister Trudeau immediately after his swearing in and the swearing in of his Cabinet where he stated, in part:

"We will shine more light on government ...Openness and transparency will be our constant companions..."

Simply stated, corporations and organizations will be well-advised to conduct a fresh examination of how they organize and conduct communication with POHs to ensure ongoing compliance with the Act and the newly-revised Code.

About Dentons

Dentons is a global firm driven to provide you with the competitive edge in an increasingly complex and interconnected marketplace. We were formed by the March 2013 combination of international law firm Salans LLP, Canadian law firm Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP (FMC) and international law firm SNR Denton.

Dentons is built on the solid foundations of three highly regarded law firms. Each built its outstanding reputation and valued clientele by responding to the local, regional and national needs of a broad spectrum of clients of all sizes – individuals; entrepreneurs; small businesses and start-ups; local, regional and national governments and government agencies; and mid-sized and larger private and public corporations, including international and global entities.

Now clients benefit from more than 2,500 lawyers and professionals in 79 locations in 52 countries across Africa, Asia Pacific, Canada, Central Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Russia and the CIS, the UK and the US who are committed to challenging the status quo to offer creative, actionable business and legal solutions.

Learn more at

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances. Specific Questions relating to this article should be addressed directly to the author.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions